Canada Day will dawn with two of its cities favoured as the NHL’s playoff tournament hubs – in a league clouded by contract and CBA uncertainty.
July 1, the traditional start of free agent shopping and the league’s new fiscal year, arrives with the cloud of COVID-19 over an unfinished 2019-20.
Late Tuesday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported the expectation that signing bonuses due Wednesday would be paid by teams as scheduled, costing more than $300 million US. That still leaves unsettled the handling of players with expiring contracts and a slew of other collective bargaining matters were still being negotiated in an unprecedented long season the league still hopes to end with a 24-team tournament sometime this summer. Participating clubs were to report for July 10 training camps, despite 26 positive tests reported since June 8.
Speaking of the tourney, the prevailing belief Tuesday night was that Las Vegas was losing steam to be a hub. With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Clark County, despite its handy hotel situation, and Chicago the only other city even mentioned as a U.S. locale, the league might have no choice but make its Canadian contenders, Toronto and Edmonton, the hosts. And even if the NHL wanted at least one American stop, the health-conscious players have a say in this, too.
“Canada has been an outstanding model,” hockey analyst Craig Button said Tuesday night on TSN 1050 radio. “When you’re trying to create a bubble environment that minimizes risk to the greatest extent possible, the players want to be in those spots.
“I love the fact the NHL waited and didn’t lock into a city. They said they’d continue to evaluate. Alberta has done a really good job, Ontario has just opened up and you hope they stay on the same lines.”
Button conceded that plans to telecast games via NBC would be strained by current travel restrictions between the countries.
“But the virus doesn’t operate under ideal circumstances, it has a mind of its own.”
Fans won’t be allowed into the rinks anyway and the two cities being two hours apart would allow for multiple games to be broadcast through the day and night.
SBA A BRUINS DEN?
With his team’s record of 5-4 in playoff games at Scotiabank Arena since 2013, Boston coach Bruce Cassidy figures Toronto would nb okay as a hub and wonders if the teams might even meet in later rounds.
“We’ve played well in that rink in the playoffs for the most part, so that’s a positive,” Cassidy told the Boston media this week. “There’s 12 teams from the East so the chances you bump into them? Who knows, right? That would be speculation.
“But I think (SBA) is an advantage (for the Leafs). If someone told me we could play at the Garden, I’d happily do it first and foremost than travel somewhere else. There is not a home crowd advantage, but there is some advantage to being in your own city, your own building, your own locker room. That’s the part I’d disagree with the league, but I don’t think it’s an easy decision to find the right spot.”
Les Jackson is retiring after 33 years with the Stars. Their last link to the Minnesota North Stars and holder of seven different hockey office positions in 33 years, including general manager, Tuesday was his last day in Dallas … It was also Dave Andrews final day as American Hockey League president after 26 years. He’s also retiring, with ex-Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson taking over … Fans in Buffalo have perked up with news that Rick Dudley is leaving the Carolina Hurricanes after two years as VP of hockey operations. Though many front office positions were eliminated when Kevyn Adams was brought in as Buffalo GM, ex-Sabre player/coach Dudley would be a popular fit somewhere … With no one sure when ‘20-21 will start, the Red Wings have shelved their annual prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich. The Leafs, who had just begun involvement in Traverse, might stick to a small Eastern Canadian event with the Senators and Canadiens if a rookie event is attempted before next season … TSN’s Rick Westhead reports the NHL has requested author Ken Dryden turn over interviews, notes and records related to his book on the late Steve Montador. After his 2015 death, researchers with the Canadian Sports Concussion Project said the former defenceman had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Paul Montador, his father, sued the league alleging it promoted violence and profited off of it while not making players fully aware of the effects of repeated long-term brain injuries. In its request for a Canadian court to obtain the material from Dryden, the league said there was information, including aspects of Montador’s life away from the rink, important to its defence.
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